Are You a Shark or a Goldfish?

Post-pandemic we are living in a “new normal” with many prospective hires filled with uncertainty while they reevaluate their priorities and choices. There is a global shortage of top talent and many of these qualified individuals prefer a virtual opportunity, hybrid model, or increased flexibility.

execunetselect-shark-goldfishBegin every subsequent discussion with prospective hires with one question, “Has anything changed since the last time we talked?” So often priorities change that impact the candidate’s decision to accept or reject a job offer.

This leads me to my question about your recruiting or talent acquisition efforts: “Are you a shark or a goldfish?” A goldfish sits in a bowl, waiting to be fed and has very limited space to grow. If someone forgets to feed a goldfish, it will die. On the other hand, a shark hunts down the food it wants, lives in the ocean, and will eventually devour the weaker fish.

I’d like to compare the goldfish to a recruiter or talent acquisition professional who posts a job and prays that someone applies.

On the other hand, a sharklike recruiter or talent acquisition professional proactively recruits top talent. Top talent is not reading job board ads or website postings. They are too busy doing a great job for their current employer. However, they might consider a job change if it represented career advancement. These are the passive candidates hiring managers often prefer to hire.

I conduct weekly live webinars for job seekers, and they have no idea who I am – so they complain about recruiters all the time. One of their greatest complaints are the email, InMail, and voicemail they receive from recruiters saying, “I read your LinkedIn Profile or saw your resume/CV and I have a job that is a perfect fit for you.” 

Most of the time these passive candidates have no interest in the job presented and would not consider a job opportunity that is similar to their current job. Their CV, resume or LinkedIn Profile is a picture of their past and present, not necessarily what they want to do in the future. The question then becomes “How do you differentiate yourself when you approach passive candidates?”

Differentiating yourself starts with the voicemail you leave. When you leave a voicemail discussing a possible opportunity you are in essence saying “Hi, I’m a salesperson and I would like to sell you something, please call me back.” How many sales calls do you return? You are a stranger they don’t know and don’t necessarily trust. Let me share a voicemail that is returned. 

“Hello, my name is Barb Bruno, someone suggested we talk. When you call me back, please tell whoever answers the line to interrupt me no matter what I’m doing. I don’t want to miss your call. I’m looking forward to our discussion. Again, it’s Barb Bruno, my phone number is 219.663.9609, let me repeat that number again 219.663.9609. Have a great day – Thanks!”

This voicemail is friendly, made them feel important by suggesting they interrupt you, said someone referred you, and they have no idea why you are calling. Over 50% of the time, they return this message as opposed to the normal average return percentage of 5%.

If they ask who referred you, simply explain that you ask everyone you talk to who was the best (insert job title) from your last place of employment? So obviously someone you worked with in the past has great respect for you. Or you could explain that you are currently representing the person who referred you and if you had the opportunity to represent them, you would extend that same confidentiality.

When you reach out to passive candidates, imagine that they went out last night and got a huge tattoo on their forehead that reads in big bold letters WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Every candidate you recruit only cares about one thing, “How can you benefit me?” They will buy, but do not want to be sold. Do not send bulk email or InMail – they will not respond – these messages must be personalized and should not pitch a job.

Share your personal brand which is your track record of success in helping other people with my credentials, successfully advance their career. Most people do not intend to retire from their current job and would welcome the opportunity to work with someone who could help them advance.

Candidates will talk to you if they understand how you can benefit them. If not, they will hide behind technology. Too many recruiters and talent acquisition professionals are convinced candidates will not talk to them on the phone. If you also feel that way, chances are you are more comfortable with email or texting. That perception is simply not true if you focus on what is most important to them.

Proactive sharklike recruiting techniques will help you represent top talent to fill open requisitions. However, during your conversations, you goal is to become the best listener in this person’s life. Listen to understand where each candidate is coming from, see the world through their eyes, and realize your job is not to agree or disagree with what they say.

Your job is to identify what must be there for them to make a career move and identify things they would change about their current job if they were their boss. Those questions help reveal the reasons passive candidates will accept another job opportunity.

We owe it to our hiring managers, our candidates, and ourselves to represent the best talent in the market, vs. the best talent in our database or actively conducting an active job search.  Knowing how to recruit top talent prevents you from being depending on resources to hit your hiring goals. This will also differentiate you from other recruiters who continue to “post and pray.” Recruiting passive candidates empowers you because you now know how to track down the best talent for the roles you represent, just like a shark!



Barbara Bruno

Barbara Bruno

Barbara Bruno, author of HIGH-TECH HIGH-TOUCH RECRUITING: How To Attract And Retain The Best Talent By Improving The Candidate Experience, is an internationally recognized recruiting expert who has a proven track record of helping recruiters and talent acquisition professionals become more successful and less stressed. She has created several popular LinkedIn Learning courses and is president of Good As Gold Training, HR Search, Inc., and Happy Candidates.

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